Friday, September 4, 2015

To my Favorite Firstborn on her 21st Brthday

Darling Joy,

Allow me to begin with a little cheese on this day of days. Indulge me because, as I've gotten older, I've found some of the cheesey things to hold within them a certain truthiness that cannot be denied.

The day you were born, everything about my life changed. Until then, I guess I knew the theory about love, but I didn’t understand how fierce and strong and unbreakable it was—is. I have been crazy about you your whole life, will be crazy about you forever. There is nothing you could do that would ever change that.

The Bible says “Love is as strong as death,” but the Good Book’s wrong on that one. Love is stronger. From the moment I saw you do that somersault on the sonogram and left the hospital singing “Wild Thing!” I have been your biggest fan. I will always be, and I will always love you. It’s an immutable law of science—like gravity or relativity, only stronger and without all the weird mathy stuff you love but I don’t understand. I guess neither of us gets any points for that—it just is.

But points are nice, dammit, so let’s talk about some of the things you do get points for. After all, you ARE “da man,” and you deserve the finest bagels and muffins in all the land! I’m going to miss some stuff and leave some stuff out or this letter would go on forever, but I did want to mention a few things that I admire terribly.


The day you were born, my friend Julie told me nervously, “She looks like she’s failing me for an exam!” She was onto something. You came into this world with a determined look upon your face, and I’ve been watching different iterations of that look play across your features for 21 years now. When you decide on a course of action, your question is not, “Shall I?” but “How shall I?” I admire that so much. 

You are a woman of fierce conviction—and you follow through. Whether it’s your commitment to vegetarianism or to Middle East peace, you look for what you believe is right, and that’s your guiding star. You have an inner moral compass that’s made of iron. Some people spend a whole life trying to find that thing—and counting the cost of committing to it once they do. You? It’s your center, the place you move from, choose from, work and love from. It knocks my socks off to see that, know that—and scares me a little sometimes, truth be told.


Speaking of socks, your kindness has always blown me away. Remember that time in primary school when you came home barefoot? There was some kid who didn’t have socks, and it was just the logical thing to you to hand yours over. You didn’t even think to mention it until I asked you where yours had gone. Your heart is enormous. I guess that’s why you have given so much of your time and energy to community organizing and working for peace. Your strong beliefs come from that center of compassion in you. You want justice, and equality, and opportunity for others, and you don’t just talk about it; you work hard for it—harder than anyone I know.


Everyone gets scared sometimes, even you, but you have never let fear drive you because you know that other things are more important. You boldly go where your heart and fierce conviction lead you. That costs you sometimes--and scares you sometimes or you wouldn’t be human--but you go anyway. And that right there? That’s what makes you a woman to be reckoned with. As Eddie Izzard would say, “The Force is really rather strong with you!”


OK, I guess we’re back to the things you don’t get many points for. Thank you for making me laugh so hard and so often through the years. You get points for that—so many points. But your crazy intelligence? That’s like the fact that you are gorgeous and enjoy stuff I don’t understand. I think you were just born that way, so... No points for that. 


There’s no need to be embarrassed though. We can’t all be ordinary. Some government program paid you good money that summer you were 19, for example, to parallel program on the supercomputer in Illinois to try to speed up the analysis of Dark Matter? Yeah, right. That sounds like something from one of those programs with aliens and people in phone boxes that whizz about the space-time continuum. I thought that stuff was just on the telly. “No, mum, it’s really a thing,” you told me—and got the fat check to prove it. 

Don’t you know that, as a Millenial, you were supposed to spend your summers asleep and then get a degree in something improbable before spending your days eating Ramen and texting and binge-watching Netflix? Instead, you have fancy job offers before you even start your senior year of college. You might not be doing this stuff right is all I’m saying…


When I look back at your first 21 years, and then forward into a future I can’t even imagine, I’m more than a little awed. I can’t wait to see your story unfold. Of course, there will be days when you don’t feel like adulting, and that’s OK. That’s why Ben and Jerry and Amazon Prime are a thing. But there will be other days, so many of those—because of who you are. Those will be the days when you laugh and days when you cry, the days when everything unfolds just as it should, and the days you just can’t understand why. 

But there are so many days out there for you which are going to be nothing but adventure. Go forth, my brave, my beautiful one, and take the ineffable by the tail. If anyone can eff it after all, my money’s on you!

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